With temperatures having dropped enough for the heaters to turn on, natural gas customers can expect their bills to rise this heating season.
National Fuel has alerted customers in western New York State to anticipate higher bills as natural gas prices have risen dramatically after “years of historic lows.” Customers could also see an increase in gas consumption this winter, as early weather reports indicate a return to normal for the cold and snowy winter.
National Grid also reported that customers in upstate New York can expect their gas bills to increase by about 31% due to increased demand and a global spike in prices.
Across the territory served by National Fuel in western New York State, approximately 90% of residents depend on natural gas to heat their homes and power their businesses. The residential customer’s estimated average winter heating bill – from November to March – will total $ 714, an increase of 43% over the last winter heating season.
National Fuel said winter 2020-21 was about 10% warmer than normal.
“This expected increase is due to rising commodity prices for natural gas and a return to what forecasters believe to be a more normal winter for western New York State, which will result in overuse. higher for the average customer, ”National Fuel said in an earlier press release. in October.
Market prices for the supply of natural gas have increased significantly from historic lows recorded in the winters of 2019-2020 and 2020-21. The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) price of natural gas for deliveries this winter recently exceeded $ 6 per MMBtu, which more than doubled last winter when prices were on average below $ 3 per MMBtu.
National Fuel said the increase – driven by several economic factors, including global demand for domestically produced liquefied natural gas, disruptions in domestic production and below-average domestic storage inventory levels – resulted in a increased cost of natural gas purchased and stored by utilities to meet customer needs.
As required by state regulations, gas utilities are required to purchase sufficient quantities of reliable, low-cost natural gas supply to meet customer demands during a colder-than-normal winter. The costs of supplying natural gas are passed on to customers dollar for dollar with no markup or profit, National Fuel said.
Despite rising costs, National Fuel said customers still benefit from proximity and access to abundant supplies of natural gas produced in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
“Overall, cumulative winter heating costs remain lower than what customers experienced in the winters 2005 to 2009 – $ 900 to $ 1,200 – before shale gas became widely available,” said declared National Fuel.
Jared Paventi, a spokesperson for National Grid, said in October that the price increase forecast came as natural gas contracts in Europe hit new highs, increasing nearly 400% since the start of the year. year due to tighter supply and increased demand.
“During the pandemic, overall energy demand and prices have remained low,” Paventi said, “and now that the economy has grown and we are starting to rebuild, the demand has increased.”
Due to the expected higher bills, National Fuel reminds customers that financial assistance is available. Governor Kathy Hochul announced in October a one-time Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP RAS) Arrears Supplement benefit to pay up to $ 10,000 in gas and / or electricity arrears for households. low-income households in New York State who are in collection or otherwise facing disconnection or termination of service.
Administered by local social services departments, the HEAP RAS benefit will pay the entire current balance, including arrears. The HEAP RAS grant will be in addition to the regular HEAP benefit (up to $ 426) currently available.
Emergency HEAP grants will be offered in January 2022 for a maximum of $ 350. HEAP opened on October 1, the first funding available in decades.
National Fuel also offers its own assistance programs:
• The Neighbor For Neighbor Heat Fund offers grants of up to $ 500 year round. Eligible clients must be 55 years of age or older, be disabled, currently receiving unemployment benefits, or be military veterans.
• Deferred payment agreement allows customers to negotiate a repayment plan based on their financial situation.
• Special protections apply to households where all residents are aged 62 and over or 18 and under, or are blind or disabled.
• The NYS Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) provides assistance with the payment of rent, utilities and household energy for tenant households.
• Budget Plan invoicing allows winter payments to be spread over the year, providing stable monthly invoices.
In Cattaraugus County, applications for the 2020-21 HEAP seasons will be accepted starting Tuesday at the Cattaraugus County Social Services Department, 1 Leo Moss Drive, Olean. HEAP interviews will take place without an appointment, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
If you need to be interviewed, your interview can be conducted over the phone if you cannot make it to the office for a face-to-face meeting and the agency has received a completed HEAP application.
For more information, contact Molly Marsh, Chief Social Services Examiner, at 701-3518.
For information on HEAP in Allegany County, contact the County Social Services Department at (585) 268-9622, Allegany County Office for the Aging at (585) 268-9390 or visit mybenefits.ny.gov .